THE BLOG

Why Being Ready for Later Life Needs Both Personal and Political Commitment

29/08/2014 13:54 BST | Updated 28/10/2014 09:59 GMT

This week, an alliance of independent organisations dedicated to protecting the wellbeing of older people in the UK published a prescription for a happy and healthy old age.

The 11-point guide, by the Ready for Ageing Alliance, included personal actions such as keeping fit, saving money, stopping smoking and adapting your home, as well as pointers for changing your mind-set about ageing.

Thinking positively about retirement, talking openly about ageing, keeping up with an active social scene (and also the youth of today) will make a difference to our approach to old age. Keeping your mind active and engaged through technology or new music for example, can help us all to feel more positive about ageing.

These are all extremely sensible and simple things that we can do personally to prepare for old age, but what of wider society?

The alliance (which includes Anchor) formed in 2013 following the publication of the House of Lords report 'Ready for Ageing?', which found that the Government is woefully underprepared for our ageing society. The aim of the alliance is to make the case for action, to ensure society is equipped to deal with demographic change. It calls for the creation of a "Ready for Later Life" pack, which would signpost 50 year olds to additional information and advice on preparing for ageing.

Of course I welcome all calls for individuals to start preparing for ageing but, as the alliance points out, it's important that the Government steps up to the mark, too. Anchor's Grey Pride Manifesto was launched at the beginning of this month. In it, we clearly set out key areas in dire need of addressing by government to make sure we are set up to cope with our ageing society. Institutional ageism in health, a lack of retirement housing and the social care crisis are but three of the main causes for concern.

Importantly, the manifesto highlights growing calls for a Minister for Older People. The UK population is ageing quickly, and Anchor has been calling for someone at Cabinet level to take responsibility for meeting the needs of the older people of today and tomorrow since 2011.

137,000 people signed our petition for a Minister for Older People. A debate in the House of Commons ended in agreement with the motion that government should consider appointing a Minister dedicated to the needs of our ageing society. We even have a Shadow Minister for Older People in place at Westminster and Conservatives in Wales appointed a Shadow Minister for Older People to the Welsh Assembly. But there is still no one person responsible in the Cabinet.

As charities and alliances such as ours continue to support people living through the challenges of older age, as well as those trying to prepare for later life, it's time for government to step up and do the same. Many older people already feel let down by services, and there are thousands more to come. How many more organisations or individuals need shout in unison, before our voices are heard?